Lighting organic material and sucking it into your lungs

Last year, The Philip Morris Companies renamed itself to the warm-and-fuzzy sounding Altria Group. Gotta love the colorful abstract logo they've got. (Psst, editors of the Altria home page: It's "Whom We Fund". "Whom" with an "m".)

They claim the name comes from the Latin altus ("high") but that doesn't explain where the "r" comes from. Any similarity to "altruism" is purely unintentional, I am certain. Would a tobacco company lie to me? Or, As Business 2.0 put it, "[The renamed company] does not, however, stop producing tobacco, which does not stop causing cancer."

Plus of course there's the matter that there is already a company called Altria Healthcare, which was none too pleased that a cigarette company decided to choose a name that matched theirs. But a Philip Morris spokesperson said that there is no conflict, pointing out that it is okay for companies to share the same name as long as they are in different fields of business, and "In our case that's not an issue. We're in very different lines of business."

Because Altria Healthcare's job is to help people improve their health.

Anyway, I was reminded of their 1995 recall of 8 billion cigarettes out of concern that their customers may become sick because the cigarettes allegedly contained the chemical methyl isothiocyanate (MITC). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated this problem and concluded that while it was true that the recalled cigarettes contained MITC, so too did cigarettes manufactured both before and after the recall, as well as cigarettes by other manufacturers. In other words, there was nothing wrong with those cigarettes.

Well, aside from the fact that they are cigarettes.

Michael Eriksen, chairman of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health noted that the real problem is "lighting organic material and sucking it into your lungs". Somehow this way of describing smoking struck me as elegantly dry.

Comments (29)
  1. D says:

    I think "whom" is grammatically correct in this context.

  2. Take heart Ray! Soon enough they will make cigarette smoking illegal and we’ll have incarcerated nearly 50% of the American population.

  3. Ron Green says:

    And then we can bring back prohibition and go after the evil consumers of alcohol.

  4. Cooney says:

    Already did that: there are very harsh laws concerning exactly which plants you can light on fire and inhale.

  5. Eldo says:

    Don’t think Health care companies care so much about your health.

    Modern medicines are designed to give you temporary relief ONLY. If the lipitor or diabetes medication actually cured your illness, how can the medical companies keep selling their medications?

  6. Steven Edwards says:

    This may not be the case for you Ray but do you ever notice how most people that have a problem with smoking dont have a issue with pot? Or what about the people that have a problem with pot but not alcohol or cigarettes.

    Consistency is important when you want to talk about a issue like this.

  7. Raymond Chen says:

    I just thought it was funny that a cigarette company recalled its product because it was concerned about the health of its customers.

  8. Cooney says:

    I just thought it was funny that a cigarette company recalled its product because it was concerned about the health of its customers.

    No, they’re concerned that they may be liable. Cyanide compounds sound like bad news.

  9. Kevin says:

    No. I would bet that they’re convinced that they’re liable; concerned that they can’t argue or buy their way out of it anymore and very interested in making themselves look like a company of reformed, compassionates who are merely "looking after" the needs of those poor, hapless souls who are already hooked on their product.

  10. Mat Hall says:

    In the EU cigarettes and other tobacco products are labelled with huge health warnings (which, from an artistic standpoint totally ruin the nice packaging design). Here’s one of the warnings:

    Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

    So, although it’ll kill you, presumably the formaldehyde would preserve your corpse in pristine condition for many years. :)

    [BTW: I’m a smoker, and have been for many years. I know it’s bad for me, I know it’s a disgusting habit, but dammit it’s GOOD!]

  11. x says:

    do you ever notice how most people that have a problem with smoking dont have a issue with pot?

    I don’t have a problem with pot because I don’t get second-hand pot smoke. I’d love to have cigarettes at the same status as pot. Make them illegal and I will have no problem with them.

  12. Mike Dunn says:

    do you ever notice how most people that have a problem with smoking dont have a issue with pot?

    Ever notice how some people, when confronted with an opinion different from their own, attack the holder of that opinion instead of debating the topic?

  13. Robert Waugh says:

    Thanks for scaring me. It’s good to be reminded once in a while that I’m paying an overwhelming, impersonal corporation hundreds of dollars each year so that their product can muck about with my brain chemistry as its poisons kill me slowly yet painfully. And it’s also good to remember that the money I give them will be used to lure more victims into their trap, to fund lobbying for the tobacco industry, and to blow smoke screens like this rebranding.

  14. Greg Hurlman says:

    I suppose that *is* akin to McDonald’s recalling a batch of Big Macs because they were making people fat.

  15. Miles Archer says:

    Gee, I kinda like second hand pot smoke.

  16. "Lighting organic material and sucking it into your lungs"

    so I guess smoking fresh veggies is passe ;)


    I don’t see anybody trying to outlaw automobiles for the pollution they cause…

  17. Aaron Margosis says:

    It’s not about morality or righteousness. It’s about IDIOCY. It is 2004 – there are NO EXCUSES LEFT. Smokers are not evil, just stupid (at least, the parts of their brains that continue to light and inhale operate suboptimally). The ones who smoke right next to the No Smoking signs outside the hospital. The ones who think that flicking their burning butts (out of moving cars, even) isn’t littering! Not evil – just STUPID and (often) inconsiderate.

    The tobacco companies – they are evil. Don’t be their pawns.

    It is 2004 – there are NO EXCUSES LEFT! (There haven’t been for YEARS. Duh.)

    (Can you tell I’m not in sales or marketing? :-)

  18. Lisa says:

    I hate everything about cigarettes. I hate breathing the smoke, finding ashes everywhere, and having to wash my hair after I’ve been out at night because I can’t stand to go to bed like that.

    But, I also hate morality policing, and I think we’re starting to go too far. Lately I’ve even found myself sympathizing with the smokers! (!!!)

    It’s impossible to argue that smoking is GOOD for you, which of course makes the anti-smoking lobby into Righteous Defenders of Goodness and Light. *cue violins*

    We all have some vice or another, and behavior that, ahem, isn’t always perfect. And eventually, folks, the Holier Than Thou’s will get around to telling YOU how evil you are.

    Overcorrection of a problem can be just as intrusive and off-putting as the problem was in the first place. In my non-smoker’s opinion, we eventually reached a pretty good compromise with separate smoking and non-smoking areas in most public places. I rarely confronted cigarette smoke that I couldn’t get away from. I’d be delighted if we stopped there.

  19. The argument against second hand smoke is very valid indeed – but not on health grounds, on the grounds that I don’t like smelling really bad. I moved into a smokers room a week ago, as he left, and it still smells and makes everything i own smell.

  20. Isaac Lin says:

    Before Imperial Tobacco was acquired by

    another tobacco company and subsequently shed

    its subsiduaries to focus on its core business,

    Imperial Tobacco owned a large pharmaceutical

    chain in Canada. So they had the job of helping

    people improve their health as well as smoke.

    According to a certain gold medal winning

    snowboarder (Nagano), it is possible to suffer

    from second hand marijuana smoke…

  21. <sarcasm> Oh, so we should start policing not when people do *wrong*, but when people are *stupid*. </sarcasm> How’s this for an excuse–it’s my body and I can decide if I want to smoke or not. The argument against second-hand smoke doesn’t stand up (see, or just do some cursory research on the topic for yourself).

  22. Zachary Turner says:

    This reminds me of when the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) was forced by law to change it’s name, since it conflicted with the existing WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). Obviously these two companies were in entirely different lines of business, so why was it not okay in this case? I think Altria HealthCare could make an easy case against Philip Morris in saying that the name change was specifically designed to make people associate cigarettes with being healthy.

  23. Anonymous Coward says:

    Knock, knock.

    Who’s there?


    Fuck who?

    No, "fuck whom?"

  24. nexus says:

    …completely random, but very funny

    For me, the issue has never been that smoking is bad for you, or that tobacco companies are "evil" I really could care less either way because I don’t smoke.

    BUT I do have to put up with "secondhand" smoke and I agree with all laws that restrict people from smoking in public places. And I honestly don’t care if they prove or disprove negative health effects of secondhand smoke. I agree with Neil, it stinks, makes me stink and I really hate it.

    If I CHOOSE to go into a bar or a "smoking area" well then I should suffer the effects (which is why I disagree with my city banning smoking in bars). In public areas, it should be illegal to smoke.

  25. nexus says:

    And the "problem" I have with tobacco companies is the fact that, for all intents and purposes, they sell an unregulated addictive product.

    The health effects of cigarettes a smoker suffers should be considered their own problem. However, many are physically incapable of quitting. In that situation I think there is a very legitimate argument.

    If I start selling my nicotine potato chips – NicoChips – and people are physically compelled to buy and eat them, do I have no responsibility if they suffer negatively because of that? Shouldn’t I be regulated or outlawed? Is it right/moral/ethical?

    For the record, that’s where I stand.

  26. Aaron Margosis says:

    Chris McK – I didn’t say anything about "policing" or laws or public policy in my post. I merely indulged in name-calling. <raspberry/>

  27. Dave says:

    NicoChips – hahaha




    but paying oodles of $$ for nicotine-laced chewing gum isn’t going to lure kids because, er, kids hate gum.

    Won’t somebody please think of the children?

  28. Ben Hutchings says:

    Nicotine isn’t carcinogenic, and isn’t inherently smelly. I’d much prefer that the nicotine addicts got their fixes from water or chips than from cigarettes.

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